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The Monkey ignored her. His attention swung back to the Cat. “What did you do?”

“He offered me a hundred thousand dollars to plant a tracker in her state ID. You know how easy it is to bug those things. Just swap out the RFID chip for one that broadcasts what you want it to broadcast, and you’re in business.”

“You’re supposed to refer all business decisions to me,” he said in a low, dangerous voice.

“You would have said no.”

“Yes, I would. That isn’t how we do business.”

“Maybe it isn’t how you do business, Monkey, but times are changing, and you’re not changing with them. There are a lot of people out there offering services we aren’t. We need to stay competitive.”

“And that means going behind my back and getting half of downtown Oakland bombed?”

The Cat shrugged. “They only took out half.”

The Fox paused, a thought almost visibly struggling across her face. “Is this why you told me I should put things in their shoes?” she asked.

“Hold up there,” I said. “Whose shoes? What things?”

“Don’t freak out,” said the Cat. “They were tracking devices for the CDC to follow, so they’d be able to take out the horrible bastards who broke into their facility. They must have been too busy to come after you until you’d ditched the shoes. You got lucky.”

“That, or we were staying at the Agora,” said Maggie. “Best security screening technology on this side of the state. No matter how much those trackers were broadcasting, they wouldn’t have gotten through the shields.”

“I haven’t changed my shoes,” said Becks slowly. She looked at me. “Have you?”


The Cat stared at us. Then she pointed at the door and started shouting, “Out! Get the f**k out of here! You have to leave!”

“What’s going on?” asked the Fox.

For a moment, I felt almost bad for her. Sure, she was crazy and homicidal, and probably the most dangerous person in the room, but she was also the one who had the least responsibility for her own actions. She needed to be taken care of, and the people she’d chosen to do that had used her as a weapon. That wasn’t her fault.

And it wasn’t my problem. “Kitty did a bad thing,” I informed her. Looking back to the Cat, I said, “Well? Turn them off already.”

The Cat licked her lips, eyes darting from me to the Monkey as she said, “I can’t.”

There was a moment when it felt like the world stood still, all of us considering the meaning of her words. Then Becks shouted, with all the authority of an Irwin in a field situation, “The van! Get to the van, get armed, and get Maggie out of the line of fire!”

“Just Maggie?” I asked.

She smiled thinly. “Georgia Mason always knew how to defend herself.” Then she was off and running, heading for the front door. The rest of us followed her. George didn’t complain as she ran, even though it must have been painful—the dressings on her feet were designed to deal with light walking, not a full-out sprint. She just gritted her teeth and kept going.

We left our shoes where they were. If they were bugged, they were more of a liability than a little barefoot running.

I could hear the Cat and the Monkey yelling at each other when we hit the front door, although I couldn’t tell what they were saying. I wasn’t aware that the Fox was following us until she took hold of my hand and asked, “Is this going to be very bad?”

Mahir and Becks were trying to pry the door open. The security system had clearly engaged once we were all inside, and it just as clearly didn’t want to let go again. I exchanged a glance with George before looking back to the Fox. “Well…”

The sudden shriek of alarms stopped me from needing to figure out the rest of that sentence. Metal sheets slammed down over all the windows, and red lights came on at the tops of the walls, flashing almost fast enough to qualify as strobes. The Fox yelped, yanking her hand out of mine. As she clamped her hands over her ears, I saw that she was holding a nasty-looking sniper’s pistol. At least she came prepared.

Becks kicked the door viciously before turning and jogging the few steps back over to me. “I’m going to go punch our host in the face until he lets us out of here,” she said.

“Punch the woman instead; she seems to deserve it more,” said Mahir. He walked back to where I was standing. “We’re proper trapped now. Probably all going to die here. I’d say it was nice knowing you, but as you’ve effectively ruined my life, it almost certainly hasn’t been.”

“What he said,” said Maggie.

“Aren’t you sweet?” George was frowning at the door, looking thoughtful. “Hey, George? You planning something, there?”

“A place like this… Mahir, remember when we did the report on the clone organ farmers? The ones who were so used to getting raided that they almost treated it as a reason not to bother washing the windows?”

“Yes!” Mahir’s eyes lit up. “They knew they’d be caught in a death trap if they ever let themselves be taken unaware—”

“—and so they never set up a headquarters without at least three escape routes.” She turned to the Fox. “How do we get out? All our weapons are outside.”

The Fox brightened, lowering her hands. “I have weapons!”

“We know you do, but we need our weapons. Please. How do we get out of here?”


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